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Kingston upon Hull (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Nicol David, alert, resilient, and calm, had to resist an unexpected ambush before beginning the defence of her British Open title with a four-game win.
The record-breaking Malaysian is favourite to win her sixth title at the world?s oldest tournament, but for much of the second half of the match against Tesni Evans, a resourceful Welsh qualifier, the champion had to raise her level a couple of gears.
This was not easy, given the comfort with which she collected the first two games, and the 11-2, 11-4, 7-11, 11-9 success required David to respond to danger by finding her consistent, accurate best.
In the third and fouth games Evans struck the ball with imagination and confidence, and David, who by then had begun to risk some more creative ploys herself, was forced to draw in her horns. It worked, though from 8-8 in the fourth game only by giving as little away as possible.
?She read my game and took some opportunities when she saw them,? said David. ?I tried to mix my game up a bit more in the third game but after that I had to go back to what I do best.
?She played so well I?m actually pleased to have got through that 3-1,? concluded David, who now faces Emma Beddoes, a member of England?s world title winning team.
If the champion wins that too she may be only two matches from a repeat encounter with Laura Massaro, the former World and British Open champion from England, whom she has met in the last two finals here.
However Massaro, in her first tournament after five weeks away from the game, did not look entirely comfortable against Joshana Chinappa, the holder of 13 Indian national titles. She had to save a game ball in the first game and was made to battle hard to take the third in a 13-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-7 victory.
Earlier another Malaysian, Delia Arnold, who caused an upset by reaching the semi-finals of the Asian Championships in Kuala Lumpur a week ago, followed it with the best win of her career.
Though only a qualifier Arnold overcame the fifth-seeded Alison Waters, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 - a result just as startling in its manner as its outcome.
Arnold trailed 3-6 in the first game and then outplayed Waters almost totally, taking advantage of the strangely frequent errors made by an opponent who clinched the world team title for England in December and climbed to a career-high world number three.
There was no doubting the focus and level-headedness of Arnold once she saw her chance, but Waters? ineffectual performance remained a mystery.
She departed the arena quickly without speaking, later commenting through her coach Paul Carter: ?It was just a very bad day at the office. I don?t know why, but it was a pity it had to happen at the British Open.?
Arnold was as level-headed after victory as during it. ?I just wanted to go on there and see what I could do, without pressure,? she said. ?But I was definitely helped by what happened at the Asian Championships. That gave me confidence.?
She next plays Annie Au, the eleventh-seeded Hong Kong player, to whom she lost in the closest five-game semi-final in the Asian Championships.
The winner of that could have a quarter-final with the second-seeded Raneem El Weleily, whom some people believe now to be good enough to beat David and become the first Egyptian woman to win the British Open. However she had to survive a scare.
The gifted Alexandrian was twice within a point of being taken to a deciding game by a qualifier, before prevailing 11-6, 11-5, 7-11, 13-11 against Line Hansen, the world number 28 from Denmark.
Another surprise saw Victoria Lust, the England-born, Canada-based world number 25 score a career-best 11-4, 11-8, 13-11 win over Omneya Abdel Kawy, the eighth-seeded Egyptian. Kawy?s brilliant short game seemed to become frustrated by the warmer, more bouncy conventional plaster courts being used for most of the women?s first round matches.
Earlier the 12th-seeded Rachael Grinham, the 38-year-old four-time former British Open champion from Australia, also went out, beaten 11-9,11-5, 12-14, 11-8 by the elegant strokes of the 19-year-old Egyptian qualifier, Yathreb Adel.